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More than 350 local students enjoy free extended learning opportunities. 

Two thumbs up was Trippe Wagner’s review of Lakewood School District’s 2021 Summer School program. Set to start 1st grade in September, Trippe’s family wanted him to have more classroom experience and another opportunity for face-to-face interaction.  

“With school being remote for so much of his Kindergarten year he didn’t have as much experience  meeting other kids and making friends,” his dad Pete Wagner explained. “It (summer school) has been really good for him. Seeing that the classes were free just made it a no brainer to sign him up.” 

As our community begins to, hopefully, put the pandemic behind us, our schools and students have some catching up to do. Lakewood schools’ Summer School is helping more than 350 local students catch up and push ahead in their learning. The two 3-week sessions of classes are open to all ages, free of charge to families, and transportation is provided. Federal COVID relief funds will reimburse the school district for the cost of the program. 

Soon to be 8th grader Kailey Yotter says her mother was adamant about Kailey and her brother Brayden participating in Summer School. “I didn’t have bad grades or anything like that,” Kailey stressed. “I wanted something to do and to be around other people.” Kailey is learning a new skill – American Sign Language, and her brother is taking band. 

“It (summer school) has been really good for him. Seeing that the classes were free just made it a no brainer to sign him up.” 

Pete Wagner, Father of a Summer School student  

“With just barely getting back into class this school year, I know they have really missed interaction with others,” her mother Tina Yotter explained. “Summer School keeps their mind going and lets them meet people they may not have had an opportunity to meet.” 

Some high school students are making up credits and a dozen are taking new courses to push closer to completing graduation requirements. Younger students are learning new skills like American Sign Language. Others are practicing their reading and math abilities through exploring new topics like engineering or advanced technology. A special “Cougar Success” session in August will help incoming high school freshman get to know the high school campus and learn study and organization skills to set them up for learning success. 

Trippe’s older sister Gianna is learning about geography during her session for students getting ready to enter 6th grade. She recently brought home a globe she made to reflect her imaginary world – a world that feature several themes from the Harry Potter book series. Her dad reports that Gianna is really excited about learning American Sign Language during the second Summer School session.  

“It has been an awesome experience. I hope everybody else in the school district would want to do it too,” said Tina Yotter, mother of two Summer School attendees.  

In teacher Jayanna Haskell’s classroom kindergarten students are learning about force and motion. Haskell helps them practice math and reading through this scientific exploration. She used classroom games and short individual interviews to quickly determine each child’s needs. Through activities she tries to give each child what they need to advance their learning.  

The class built their own bowling alley to determine how force influences motion. Haskell said her focus is on learning through fun rather than drilling math facts or taking timed tests.  

“A lot of what they need is confidence as learners,” Haskell explained. “Adults sometimes forget that children learn to read through identifying pictures. Instead, adults may focus on just the words students may or may not know.” 

Amy Shelly also used games as she introduced American Sign Language (ASL) to her Summer School class. Typically available to just high school students, Shelly was excited to offer an ASL introduction to younger children.   

“It has been fun to work with a different age group,” the Lakewood High School teacher said. “Hopefully, we are shining a light on the program that is available when these students reach high school.” 

“I’m kind of sad it’s ending. I really like it (ASL) a lot.” 

Kailey Yotter, Summer School student 

After a short introduction, students were immersed in using sign language to communicate with each other during games and classroom conversations. They have learned to sign the alphabet, numbers and about 170 or more concepts.  

“Each morning we practice the signs Ms. Amy showed us the day before,” said Kailey Yotter, who will be in 8th grade in September. After Yotter and her classmates became somewhat proficient, the class used the educational video recording software Flipgrid to record their conversations. Shelly creates a conversation starter that her students respond to in American Sign Language. They can share their responses with classmates starting ASL conversations.  

Watching the videos helps each see their progress and offers a way to share their learning with their families. The software has safety and privacy settings that are meant for student learners. 

“I’m kind of sad it’s ending. I really like it (ASL) a lot,” Yotter said. “If you really commit to it, you will really succeed in it and have fun.” 

Shelly offers students the option to keep in touch after Summer School. Those interested will receive online activities to maintain their new skills. Another goal is to establish Flipgrid pen pals between these youngsters and her high school ASL students benefiting the learning of both age groups. 

The 2021 Summer School session may just be a first of many for families like the Yotters and the Wagners. “This summer has been a really great experience and definitely something to look forward to,” said Pete Wager.  He added with a bit of planning, his family found Summer School to complement rather than interfere with family trips and other summer activities.